The topic of stem cell research has been bandied about on the campaign trail this year and there’s a debate about what Iowa law really says on this controversial issue.
Current Iowa law bans human cloning and does not mention stem cells at all. Cloning is believed to be one way to make embryonic stem cells, although no one has actually accomplished that in a lab yet. The state law has essentially restricted research in Iowa to the 21 embryonic stem cell lines that existed in 2001 when President Bush made his first ruling on the stem cell issue. Discarded human embryos from fertility clinics can be used in medical research in Iowa, according to former State Representative Dan Boddicker — the author of the state law, but University of Iowa researchers are not using them, citing a “lack of clarity” in that law. Adult stem cells can be used in medical research in Iowa, as in other states.
If the state’s ban on cloning were lifted — as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver has advocated — then researchers at the University of Iowa say they could begin the kind of embryonic stem cell research that’s going on in other states and in other countries, like Great Britian, if they’re provided more money to build “state-of-the-art” research facilities to conduct that sort of research.
Michael J. Fox, the Hollywood star who has Parkinson’s Disease and has been an out-spoken advocate of expanded embryonic stem cell research, will be in Iowa this afternoon to campaign on Culver’s behalf. The Iowa Republican Party issued a news release, accusing Culver of luring Fox here on false pretenses by saying on the campaign trail that he would lift Iowa’s ban on stem cell research.